The University of Southampton

ENGL3004 Writing the Novel

Module Overview

The essential elements of writing a novel include crafting beginnings and endings, constructing characters, manipulating structure and plot, and developing an intimate relationship with language. Writing exercises and discussions of work in progress will allow you to practise and reflect on the critical components of the novel, whilst sharpening your awareness of audience and readership. Your exploration of new ideas and rigorous investigation into relevant research areas will be supported by individual feedback on your work, as you get to grips with drafting and redrafting, finding and refining your writing style

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aims of this module are to offer a practice-based introduction to the process of writing a novel and to give you insight into the routes towards publication.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the process of writing a novel.
  • the role of agents and editors in the publishing industry and the routes towards publication.
  • a range of contemporary novels and the stylistic and structural devices employed by their authors.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • plan, structure, edit and improve your work.
  • confidently present your work to small groups of your peers.
  • give and receive constructive criticism.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • write an opening and several chapters of a novel and you will be able to
  • write a synopsis of your work in progress and a covering letter to a potential literary agent or publisher.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • evaluate and offer constructive criticism of the work of your fellow students.
  • look critically at your own work in order to edit and rewrite it as necessary to achieve a professional standard.


This module will cover the essential elements of writing a novel, including writing openings and endings, character development, structure, plot, language and style. The essentials of writing novels for children and young people will also be considered.

Special Features

This module is taught by a novelist. There will also be a talk from a visiting writer, literary agent or publisher.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods and learning activities include one three hour seminar and one one hour workshopseminar each week. These will be structured around writing exercises and opportunities to present and discuss work with groups of other students. Individual feedback on your work will be available from your seminar tutor during office and consultation hours and in classes. A week-by-week reading list of novels and commentaries on the subject will be provided in preparation for classes.

Wider reading or practice80
Follow-up work32
Completion of assessment task100
Preparation for scheduled sessions40
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Curtis Sittenfeld (2006). Prep. 

Louis Sachar (2000). Holes. 

Julia Darling (2004). The Taxi Driver's Daughter. 

Meg Rosoff (2004). How I Live Now. 

Anne Tyler (2007). Breathing Lessons. 

Ali Smith (2002). Hotel World. 

Frank Cottrell Boyce (2004). Millions. 

Julia Bell (2001). The Creative Writing Coursebook. 

Evelyn Waugh (2002). A Handful of Dust. 

John Mullan (2006). How Novels Work. 

Virginia Woolf. Mrs. Dalloway. 

Mark Haddon (2004). The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time. 

Sandra Newman & Howard Mittelmark (2009). How Not To Write A Novel - 200 Mistakes To Avoid at All Costs if You Ever Want To Get Published. 

Jane Gardam (2004). Old Filth. 


Assessment Strategy

Feedback and constructive criticism of draft and marked assignments will be available from seminar tutors and will enable you to critique and improve your work. Writing exercises used during the module and the discussion in seminars will provide you with potential starting points and foundations for your writing. You will be required to bring drafts of your work to seminars and to present it to groups of your fellow students for constructive criticism prior to submitting each assignment. This process will assist you in looking critically at your own work (as well as that of your fellow students) and so help you to edit and rewrite it as necessary to achieve a professional standard.


MethodPercentage contribution
Critical commentary  (1000 words) 12.5%
Critical commentary  (1000 words) 12.5%
Written assignment  (3000 words) 37.5%
Written assignment  (3000 words) 37.5%


MethodPercentage contribution
Critical commentary  (1000 words) 12.5%
Written assignment  (3000 words) 37.5%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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